The Stone Cross: The latest Artefact to be Returned to Africa from Europe

There is growing pressure on European countries to return artifacts stolen from Africa during the colonial period. For example, the British Museum in London has promised to return Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, which were taken by British soldiers.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the return of 26 artworks to the Republic of Benin, which were brought to France over a century ago.

WHAT ACTION HAS GERMANY TAKEN?

Germany is the latest country to promise to return stolen artefacts to its former colonies. A 15th Century artefact known as the Stone Cross, which was taken from Namibia, is set to be returned.

Minister of State for Media and Culture Monica Gruetters told media that the return is “a clear signal that we are committed to reappraising (reflecting on and reevaluating) the colonial past”.

THE HISTORY OF THE STONE CROSS

The Stone Cross, which was first placed on Namibia’s coast in 1498, was a 3.5-meter high navigation landmark. It was erected by Diogo Cão, a Portuguese explorer and displays the Portuguese coat of arms.

The Stone Cross was a significant landmark that had featured on old world maps. However, after Namibia became a part of the German Empire, the Stone Cross was taken to Germany in 1893.

The Stone Cross is currently on display at the German Historical Museum in Berlin. The Namibian government formally requested in June 2017 that the Stone Cross be returned to Namibia.

HOW WILL THE STONE CROSS BE RETURNED?

Monica Gruetters and Raphael Gross, President of the German Historical Museum, will travel to Namibia in August 2019 to hand over the Monument.

Gross said, at a symposium in 2018, that he is optimistic the return of the Stone Cross will encourage a dialogue about Germany’s colonial history, and how Germany should continue returning stolen colonial artefacts.

KATIE WILSON

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